Senators demand DeJoy dump postal center closure plans
The cuts DeJoy wants would end up with fewer postal workers and slower service. Mail would remain in these boxes for longer periods of time. | Nati Harnik/AP

WASHINGTON—Trump-named Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is drawing more flak, as more than 20 senators, in a letter to him and the Postal Service’s board, demand the controversial former corporate executive halt his plans to close postal sorting centers, throwing workers out of jobs and slowing mail delivery in half of U.S. states.

Meanwhile, a letter from Demand Progress, a pro-Democratic political group, goes even further than the lawmakers do. It not only demands USPS dump DeJoy’s closure plans, but that the Postal Service Board of Governors dump DeJoy, which the board has the power to do.

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., the Senate Labor Committee chair, and Angus King, Ind-Maine, drafted the lawmakers’ letter. It says DeJoy’s planned closings would hurt customers who rely on timely and accurate delivery of the mail for first-class letters, medicines, checks and bills.

“While the Postal Service continues to work toward financial stability, it cannot come at the expense of the many small businesses, seniors, and other Americans who rely on the Postal Service for their daily life,” the senators wrote.

“The Postal Service is at its best when it treats its workers right and delivers mail in a timely fashion. We therefore urge you to prevent facility changes or outright closures that will result in any job losses and slower mail.”

The letter is not the first flak DeJoy has faced. The Republican big giver is former CEO of XPO Delivery, a private and non-union package service that competes with the Postal Service.

DeJoy’s “Deliver For America” plan wants to push the Postal Service more into package delivery and de-emphasize its top money-maker, first-class letters and cards.

DeJoy has also drawn criticism for awarding a no-bid contract to his former company, for initially declaring that new USPS vehicles would be gas guzzlers, and that they would be built at a non-union plant in the anti-union Carolinas, not at a retrofitted plant designed to build electric vehicles, and employing Auto Workers, in Oshkosh, Wis.

The closures would affect jobs and mail in 59 sorting centers in Arkansas, California , Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In many of those states, carriers will have to drive hundreds of miles to pick up sorted mail from a center, then drive back before starting their routes. A prior protest of DeJoy’s closures showed, for example, that Rockford, Ill., carriers will have to drive three and a half hours one way to Des Moines, Iowa, to pick up their mail.

And Letter Carriers in Peoria will have to drive to the postal sorting center in Chicago’s south suburbs, pick up their sorted mail, then drive back and start their routes. The Peoria-Chicago route, most of it along the always-crowded Stevenson Expressway, is 173 miles and two-and-a-half hours, one way.

In other states, closing one center will force carriers to battle high rush-hour traffic to pick up mail, slowing it down. That’s the case with DeJoy’s planned closure in Newburgh, N.Y. Carriers will have to navigate the jammed Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to pick up their mail from a sorting center on the Hudson’s eastern shore. Wyoming, New Hampshire and Vermont will have no sorting centers at all.

“Vermont mail processing at Burlington and White River Junction will likely transfer to a facility in Hartford, Conn., around 230 and 145 miles, respectively,” the letter says. “Oregon mail processing at Eugene and Medford is transferring to Portland, distances of around 110 and 270 miles, respectively. These changes are already causing mail delays in Medford,” the senatorial letter says. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both D-Ore., co-signed the letter.

And when the Grand Junction center on Colorado’s Western Slope  closes, the mail will be sorted in Denver, 200 miles—and one often snow-closed highway—away. That’s “led to significant concerns about the timely delivery of prescription medication, local mail, and Colorado’s mail-in ballots.” Colorado is a totally mail-in state. One of its senators, Democrat Michael Bennet, co-signed the letter.

DeJoy claims no jobs will be lost due to the closures, overlooking that many affected USPS workers will have to move on short notice if they want to stay with the Postal Service. At any rate, the senators are skeptical of the no-job-loss claims.

A copy of the letter went to the Postal Service Board of Governors, which—though it’s now majority Biden-appointed—has yet to curb or fire DeJoy and the cabal of corporate executives he brought in to help run the USPS.

But in a presidential election year,  the pro-Democratic political group Demand Progress jumped on the senators’ letter with one of their own. It links DeJoy’s corporate oriented “Deliver For America” plan, his closures and his politics as a GOP big giver. DeJoy’s first-ever campaign contribution, decades ago, went to his arch-racist home state Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. He’s funded only Republicans since, including Donald Trump.

“More and more communities are reporting major delays in mail delivery as Louis DeJoy’s 10-year plan to shrink the U.S. Postal Service continues to move forward,” Demand Progress said in seeking dollars for its dump DeJoy drive.

“Since taking over as Postmaster General, he has raised rates five times, slowed delivery, and cut operations at more than 200 locations. Many of his worst ideas have been enacted with little to no public comment.”

“Unlike cabinet secretaries and many other agency heads, the Postmaster General can’t be directly fired by the president. Only the Board of Governors…can do that. Enough is enough. It’s long past time for the Postal Service Board of Governors to fire DeJoy and save the post office.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.